The most remarkable achievement on Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV (PMTCT) in Turkana County was witnessed today in Lokori PHC hospital as the second batch of 33 children born of HIV positive mothers graduated as HIV free individuals.
Being the second graduation in a weeks time, the Lokori event was preceded by a similar one in Nariokotome where another batch of 33 of children was declared to be HIV free.
Turkana County First Lady Margret Nanok officiated the event that was also graced by county officials led by CEC Health and Sanitation Jane Ajele, representatives of Caritas-Lodwar and AmpathPlus.
Speaking during the event to celebrate the remarkable achievement, Mrs Nanok said that the achievement is a show of hope that change is possible and an indication of the great potential possessed by the county’s health workforce in promoting an HIV free society.
While calling upon increased participation of men in the management of HIV at the household level, she also reminded the parents of the graduands of the hard task ahead of raising the children to adulthood.
The First Lady promised to champion the prevention of Mother to Child initiatives by using her time to encourage expectant women to attend clinics and adhere to the recommendations of health care workers.
Speaking at the same event, Health CEC Jane Ajele began by congratulating the First Lady for accepting to be the county PMTCT champion tag and called upon all other prominent women to join her especially in sensitization of the rural communities and advocating for increased funding towards mother and child health services.
According to CEC Jane Ajele, the ceremony was an indication of the sacrifices made by health care workers, the County Government, partners of the Department of Health as well as the community in ensuring that HIV positive women can live a normal life and enjoy motherhood like any other woman.
While turning to statistics, CEC Jane Ajele cited the significant reduction of HIV prevalence rates over the last seven years from 9% to the current 3% with a marked decrease in new infection from 2,997 in 2013 to the current 645 in 2019.
Still, on numbers, CEC Jane Ajele said that unlike the HIV prevalence rates which have fluctuated before settling at 3%, mother to child transmission has witnessed a steady decline from the high of 24% in 2013 to the current 15.3% owing to the robust PMTCT initiatives by the county HIV and STI’s control unit at the county Ministry of Health.
At the same time, CEC Jane Ajele lauded the participation of Ampathplus and their local implementing partner Caritas Lodwar for the huge strides made in Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) coverage from the initial figure of 20% to the current figure of 50% throughout the county.
County HIV and STI Coordinator Samuel Pulkol attributed the successful graduation to the huge investment by both the County Government and its partners on health infrastructure, workforce, medical supplies, capacity building and community support system.
According to Mr Pulkol, mother to child transmission rates could be reduced even further if expectant mothers with known HIV status would receive nutritional support as this will enhance adherence to ART treatment over the pregnancy period and treatment of the child with ARV prophylaxis during the breastfeeding period.
Speaking on behalf of the sub-county, Dr David Moru cited Lokori PHC as a pacesetter in Turkana East and the entire county in providing comprehensive HIV care within its maternity structures. According to Dr Moru, the leadership of Lokori PHC had midwifed growth and advancements whose results could be seen in the graduating cohort and a high percentage of virally suppressed clients.
Fr. Paul Areman the Vicar General of Diocese of Lodwar said that the graduation was an indicator of the church’s commitment to promoting an HIV free future. Fr Areman cited the best working partnership with the County Government as a huge contributor to the success being witnessed not only in Lokori but also across all the facilities under the management of the Catholic Church in Turkana County.
Turkana County Ampathplus Team Lead Chris Eweillar reiterated the commitment of the organization toward supporting all initiatives leading to reduced HIV prevalence. Eweillar said that Ampathplus will continue to work with Caritas Lodwar as local implementing partner owing to their strategic advantage as providers of healthcare services in the county alongside the County Government.